This is the second part of a two part series.
In the last post, we discussed the fact that INTERPOL’s new president, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, is the subject of multiple human rights violations allegations (these have been raised in the countries named in the post title, above). This post will focus on the possible effects of those allegations on Al-Raisi’s ability to function as INTERPOL’s president.
Relevance of Al-Raisi’s Physical Presence in France
One of the complaints against Al-Raisi was closed without action last year based on a French court’s finding that he neither lived in France nor was he present on its soil, and therefore personal jurisdiction was lacking.
However, after the General Assembly at which he was elected president, Al-Raisi has appeared on French soil as part of his obligation to work at INTERPOL, which is headquartered in Lyon, and the complaint has been re-filed as of this March. The NGO that filed the complaint is the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (“GCHR”); the organization continues to advocate for justice for human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, whose case is also the subject of a Human Rights Watch campaign. According to GCHR, the most recent complaint led to a meeting with a representative from the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes (OCLCH).
If the complaint and investigation lead to formal charges, Al-Raisi could be detained, questioned, and tried if he enters France or French territory. Such events would obviously affect his ability to serve as President.
When asked if these criminal allegations undermined INTERPOL’S credibility, INTERPOL’S Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, responded that “At this stage, it is an accusation, but of course, we are well aware.” Regardless of the gravity of the criminal allegations, INTERPOL member countries clearly bore in mind the presumption of innocence as demonstrated by Al-Raisi’s election in the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly.
Effect of Possible Conflict of Interest
When the president of a law enforcement support organization is facing criminal charges, the question of a conflict of interest will naturally arise. While some conflicts of interests may concern specific cases, another issue is the larger conflict posed when a person is obliged to both hold member countries accountable for gross human rights violations while simultaneously defending himself from multiple accusations of exactly those actions.
At least with respect to his role on the Executive committee, which INTERPOL’s president heads, there is a process in place that is meant to determine how conflicts of interests should be addressed.
The Executive Committee is the governing body in charge of supervising the execution of the General Assembly’s decisions and the administration and work of the General Secretariat. Members of the Executive Committee are expected to act without self-interest. A conflict of interest in this context is defined as an actual or potential incompatibility between the duties of an Executive Committee member and private, or personal interests. Actual complaints result in immediate recusal of the Committee member unless the Executive Committee grants dispensation. If a conflict of interest is potential rather than actual, the Executive Committee member concerned must seek the advice of the Executive Committee on whether he or she should recuse themselves. Ultimately the Executive Committee may disagree with the member’s decision and vote for recusal.
Thus, without a complaint being filed regarding a conflict of interest, the issue will not be raised in the context of his role on the Executive Committee will not be raised unless Al-Raisi himself seeks the Committee’s advice.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.
*Thanks to Daniela Gomez, B.A. Candidate at Florida International University August 2022, for her contribution to this post.